Today the Washington Post tells us that James A. Fields, Jr., the neo-Nazi who plowed a car into a group of counterprotesters at the infamous white-supremacist rally in Charlottesville in 2017, is scheduled to appear in federal court for a hearing on “hate-crime” charges. Interestingly, the article neglects to tell us specifically which “hate crimes” were involved.
Fields has been found guilty already of first-degree murder in the death of Heather Heyer, one of the people struck by Fields’ car. He has been sentenced to life in prison for the murder charge, 70 years for each of five counts of aggravated malicious wounding, 20 years for each of three counts of malicious wounding, and nine years for leaving the scene of a fatal crash.
The man deserves to spend the rest of his life in prison. He should be darn grateful he didn’t get the death penalty. Personally, I think he should get the electric chair (or whatever we use for capital punishment in Virginia these days). But I’m at a loss about the hate crime charges.
Heyer was white. If Fields rammed his car into a multi-racial mix of demonstrators, injuring several and killing one, was the act a “hate crime” perpetrated against counter-protesters based on their race, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation, or was it a generalized crime motivated by ideological malice against the counter-demonstrators? Is Fields, in effect, being charged with the thought crime of hewing to neo-Nazi beliefs while committing a crime?
The neo-Nazi ideology is loathsome. One could argue that of all the odious ideologies in circulation in the U.S., it is the most loathsome and indefensible of all. But is it now a crime in Virginia to embrace a reviled ideology?
Update: The Daily Progress account provides a big more detail about the hate-crime charges:
Fields is charged with one count of a hate crime resulting in Heyer’s death; 28 counts of hate crime acts attempting to kill or cause injury; and one count of “racially-motivated violent interference with a federally protected activity resulting in the death” of Heyer “for driving his car into a crowd of protesters.”
Huh? That makes no sense to me whatsoever, but according to the Daily Progress, Fields’ attorneys have signaled that he might plead guilty to the charges. So, what do I know?There are currently no comments highlighted.